1st Allotted Day

Part of European Union (Withdrawal) Act – in the House of Commons at 8:03 pm on 4th December 2018.

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Photo of Ian Blackford Ian Blackford SNP Westminster Leader 8:03 pm, 4th December 2018

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We must make the point right across Scotland that there is an existential threat to our living standards and our workers. We must make sure that we stop Brexit. If we cannot stop Brexit for the United Kingdom, we have to take seriously our own responsibility to protect Scotland.

Brexit uncertainty is already damaging our economy to the tune of £600 per household per year, as the value of the pound falls and inflation rises. That is not “Project Fear”; that has happened. That is what has happened since the sheer irresponsibility of the Vote Leave campaign, with ridiculous statements on the side of a bus, promoted by the ex-Foreign Secretary, the right hon. Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip, who should be hanging his head in shame.

There is no certainty in the Prime Minister’s deal on future trading arrangements for goods and services, no certainty on future mobility, no clarity on law, and no guarantee on continued participation in the EU funding programmes that support our universities, communities, non-governmental organisations and businesses. Uncertainty leads to risks for investment and further risks for our economy. Under a free trade agreement, GDP would be £9 billion lower by 2030 than if we stayed in the European Union. That is equivalent to £1,600 per person in Scotland. That is what Brexit risks per year, making the people of Scotland poorer. That is why the Scottish National party, in all good faith, has offered a compromise. If we are to be dragged out of the European Union against our will, then, at the very least, we must remain in the single market and the customs union to protect our economy. Without single market and customs union membership, the future relationship can only be a free trade agreement, introducing barriers to Scottish companies’ abilities to trade. That will damage jobs, investment, productivity and earnings.

The Government’s own analysis proves that Brexit is bad for Scotland: trade volumes, GDP and wages would all fall, while Government borrowing and trade costs would increase. All the analysis shows that a no-deal scenario would be catastrophic and it is likely that the corporate sector in general is not well equipped to deal with a no-deal Brexit. It is more important than ever that we are not faced with a false choice between a bad deal and a no deal. We need to have more time. We must extend article 50 and take an alternative route to protect our economy. This deal and no deal are not options. Only those reckless enough to risk economic hardship will back this deal.

Despite what the Prime Minister said here today, her own Chancellor agrees with the SNP. He admitted on Radio 4 that, in economic terms, we will be worse off after Brexit and after leaving the single market. Even more telling is the admission from the Prime Minister herself in the House last week. In response to Nigel Dodds, she said:

“What we want to be able to do in the future is to have our independent trade policy. One of the issues in relation to the backstop is whether or not we would be able to do that—that is one of the issues that we would not want to see us continuing to be in the backstop for.”—[Official Report, 26 November 2018;
Vol. 650, c. 32.]

So the Prime Minister is clear. There is a concern from this Government over their ability to be able to strike and implement free trade deals if the backstop comes into force. Why then is she arguing here that this deal delivers? Again, I ask the House: how can we support a deal and back the Government on delivering an outcome that would make our economy smaller and our communities poorer?

Ministers have tried to spin support in favour of this deal, citing the support from sectors across the United Kingdom. However, let me say this to those who believe that this deal is the only option: it is not and we deserve better. We know that frictionless trade at the border is crucial for Scotland’s food and drink exports, but there is no guarantee of that as, under the deal, border checks and controls will depend on the extent of the UK’s alignment with EU customs and regulatory regimes. Yet the declaration contains no commitment to a common rulebook on regulation. The SNP believes that our food and drink sector deserves assurance. It deserves cast-iron protections for the industry, not a false binary choice between a no Brexit and a blindfold Brexit.

Yet again, another UK Tory Government in Westminster have bargained off our fishing sector. The utterances from No. 10 are false assurances. The UK is reneging on its promises to support Scottish fishing by accepting a link between UK waters and access to EU markets. Its commitment to a separate fisheries agreement as part of the economic partnership could mean the UK ceding access for EU vessels to UK waters, or accepting tariffs and customs barriers on trade and fish, seafood and farmed salmon with the EU. That is not acceptable. That will mean that, again, Scottish interests are being traded off against each other. That is absolutely unacceptable and those Scottish Tories who profess to want to protect Scottish fishermen should hang their heads in shame. If the Tories go through the Lobby to protect this Government, they will once again have sold Scotland out for party political gain and they will not be forgiven for it.

The UK Government must respect the will of the Scottish people who voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU. It is a democratic outrage that Scotland has been dragged out of the EU against its will. The withdrawal agreement sidelines Scotland and sells out our vital national industries. How could any representative in good conscience support such a move? Let me be clear: next week, the SNP will reject the withdrawal agreement because it will leave Scotland poorer and rip opportunities away from future generations. Does the Prime Minister show any respect at all for our mandate? No. Do this Government have respect for the fact that every Scottish local authority voted remain and that the nation voted 62% in favour of staying in the EU? No. Well, in Scotland we will make our voices heard once again.

Northern Ireland has been given a differential deal that will put Scotland at a competitive disadvantage. There is no reason why a similar arrangement cannot be afforded to Scotland. The SNP will table an amendment to ensure that the voice of Scotland is well and truly heard in this place. Those who claim to be democrats—those who claim to have respect for the people of Scotland and for the mandate of the Scottish people and Parliament—cannot vote with the UK Government on this deal. It is clearer now than ever before that the only way to protect Scotland’s interest is to be an independent nation.

The First Minister has been very clear that she will set out the next steps on Scotland’s future once the terms of the Brexit deal are clear. The process of Brexit has demonstrated weaknesses in the UK’s constitutional arrangements. Scotland has been ignored, sidelined and undermined through the entire Brexit process. The costs to the people in Scotland of not being independent have been laid bare.

Today is a moment of huge historical significance. For decades to come, people will remember what this place decided to do—whether we, as public representatives with the responsibility to protect our communities and constituents, voted for a deal that would harm and hinder their opportunities, or whether we stood up for them. This is no ordinary time in our history and it is no ordinary time for our politics. Brexit has cast the politics of Westminster into a landscape of crumbling certainties.

We are at a defining moment. We must stand up for our constituents. We cannot ignore the economic analysis. We cannot drive blindfolded off the cliff edge. We must take back control in this place. We must have the courage of our convictions and wield the power gifted us to do the right thing. We must stop this deal and this Government railroading recklessly over our rights, our freedoms and the opportunities of our people. There is another way, there is time and we must take it.